posted April 30, 2020
Smoky Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese
This Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese is over the top delicious. Loaded with bacon, sausage, and extra cheese before getting a tender kiss of hardwood smoke. You may not know it yet, but this is your new favorite food. Your death-row last meal request. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Well then, friend, read on.
So What is Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese?
I think mac and cheese needs to be indulgent. It is comfort food, after all. So keep that in mind as you read the ingredients list, mmmmk? My favorite thing about this dish (in addition to the awesome flavor) is the ease of preparation. One skillet. No separate pot of hot water or additional baking dishes required. Everything is cooked together, even the noodles, which results in the creamiest mac & cheese to ever hit your tongue. The noodles absorb all of the flavor from the bacon, sausage, and jalapenos while it cooks. Every bite is equally as delicious as the one before.
After spending a couple of years perfecting the Stuffed Jalapeno Popper, I knew it was time to take those flavors and put it in a pasta! I think it is pretty standard to throw some cream cheese in a jalapeno, wrap it in bacon, and call it a jalapeno popper. Alas, simplicity was never my strong suit. I took the base flavors and went a little off course and drove that flavor train into meat depot. I added browned bratwursts, melty cheese, and topped the whole thing with my signature Sweet Rub. They are the best poppers ever, and now all the flavors I love are all floating around in every bite of this Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese.
Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese Ingredients
This mac and cheese has a few more ingredients than just noodles, cheese, and milk. Here’s what you’ll need to assemble to make these mac and cheese dreams a reality. There are a few ingredients, but this is a fully loaded mac and cheese. Making it is definitely easier with your ingredients pulled together before you start cooking. Full quantities are in the recipe card below.
- Uncooked bratwursts
- Cream cheese
- Macaroni noodles
- Garlic powder
- Salt and Pepper
- Butter crackers (think Ritz)
- BBQ Seasoning (I recommend my Signature Sweet Rub that you can either MAKE or BUY)
What Makes this Mac and Cheese Smoky?
The real secret to this mac and cheese is baking it in your smoker. Just 30 minutes at 225 degrees F is enough to give your mac and cheese that classic baked texture and the perfect kiss of smoky flavor. It’ll taste like you’re eating a jalapeno popper straight off the grill, with a healthy dose of carbs. This recipe also finishes cooking at a high heat, which makes it perfect for cooking on a pellet smoker that adjusts heat quickly.
If you don’t have a smoker, and you still want a bit of smoky flavor in your mac & cheese, buy apple or hickory smoked bacon to use in the recipe! You can follow the rest of the instructions, just skip the smoking step and bake at the same temperature in your oven instead of on your grill.
Final note before you jump in and fulfill all of your wildest food fantasies, mac and cheese is always about preference! My husband likes his mac and cheese extra saucy, so I always add in an extra quarter to a half cup of milk after the noodles are cooked. I like my mac and cheese baked and a little more set up, so I cook following the recipe as written.
More Smoky Mac and Cheese Recipes
I think a good plate of BBQ is perfectly rounded out by a tasty mac and cheese recipe. These mac and cheese masterpieces are sure to inspire you the next time you’re looking for a tasty BBQ side dish:
Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese Recipe
Smoky Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese
- 1/2 pound bacon (diced)
- 1 link uncooked bratwurst (casing removed)
- 2 jalapenos (seeds removed and finely diced)
- 1 8 oz brick cream cheese
- 8 oz uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups marbled cheddar (shredded)
- 1/4 cup butter crackers (like Ritz) (crushed)
- 1 jalapeno (thinly sliced)
- 1 teaspoon Hey Grill Hey Signature Sweet Rub
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F with a mild hard wood like pecan or maple.
- Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the bacon and sausage. Stir in the diced jalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes, until softened.
- Stir in the cream cheese and mix until well combined. Pour in the noodles, water, milk, and cream. Cook, stirring regularly, until the noodles have absorbed a majority of the liquid (about 8-10 minutes).
- Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cheese until everything is all melted together. Sprinkle the top with the sweet rub, the buttered crackers, and the thin jalapeno slices.
- Place the mac and cheese in the smoker and smoke for 30 minutes. Either transfer your mac and cheese to a 400 degree F oven or increase your grill temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 8-10 minutes at the higher temperature until the crackers are starting to brown.
- Remove the mac and cheese from the grill and serve.
**This post was originally published on 1/25/2017. It has since been updated with more information, a video, and new photos, but the recipe remains the same.**
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